Did you know? Experts estimate 30 percent of auction events today utilize some form of mobile bidding.
As donors get more comfortable using smartphones or tablets to text bids in a silent auction, mobile bidding is a more viable option for nonprofits than ever.
To help you navigate a changing auction landscape, we sat down with Debby Roth-Bush, certified benefit auctioneer and Relationship Manager at mobile auction software provider Greater Giving.
She shares the top benefits of using mobile bidding, plus 19 concrete tips to get the most out mobile bidding in your event. In part 1 of a 2-part series, we'll cover:
- Top 3 benefits of mobile bidding
- Find the right mobile bidding provider.
- Consider cell reception before signing off on a venue.
- Get more event sponsorships (branded charging stations, anyone?)
- Tell donors ahead of time
- Bundle items
- What items sell best
"Mobile bidding aims to help nonprofits raise more money every day through products like event software management, mobile bidding, fast payment collection and online donations," explains Roth-Bush.
Indeed, auction software is a way for groups to solve a number of problems at their events. Here are the top 3 indicators that mobile and online bidding may be right for your event.
Solves space constraints
"A few years ago, I was at my son's school auction, bidding on the front row seat of the play in which he was scheduled to perform," recalls Roth-Bush. "I remember being excited for the item - but when I went to check on the bid sheet, I literally couldn't get through the crowd of people holding their drinks.
"I didn't want to spill something or make a scene. In the end, I knew the organization lost a little bit of money because I couldn't physically get back to the auction."
Silent auctions can get too crowded if the space isn't carefully optimized - and you want to remove any obstacles in the way of the donor's inclination to spend.
Mobile bidding is one way you can make it as easy as possible for guests to place bids wherever they are.
Allows supporters to participate regardless of geographic location
In addition to solving space constraints, mobile bidding allows donors to bid from anywhere in the room.
Think of all the time your guests spend in line at the buffet, eating at the tables or mingling with their drinks. With pen and paper bidding, if they're not physically in front of the silent auction items, they're not bidding.
Mobile bidding allows donors to "take the auction with them" and check items wherever they go.
An online auction also opens up your event to supporters around the world. This is a big contributing factor to the 25 to 30 percent bump in revenue Roth-Bush estimates for events transitioning to mobile bidding.
"The other thing we're hearing is, 'This was the easiest auction ever,'" Roth-Bush asserts. The silent auction is moved online, eliminating the need to juggle bid sheets, spreadsheets, auction binders, email messages and more. Your efforts stay organized and require less of your auction committee members' time.
How to Maximize Mobile Bidding at Your Event
Depending on the scope and depth of services your event requires, it's no secret that mobile bidding can be pricey. But unlike other one-time costs (like the band or catering), this is one expense that can end up paying for itself - if used correctly.
Here are a few strategies to leverage mobile bidding to its fullest potential.
With the rise in mobile bidding's popularity comes an increase in providers. Today there is plenty of variety in price point and service to match your nonprofit's needs.
- Do you have multiple events or fundraising campaigns a year? Look for a platform that offers year round support.
- Working on a tight budget? (Who isn't?!) Look for a provider that offers more customizable and/or "DIY" plans. The more work you are allowed to handle yourselves, the more money you'll keep in your pocket.
- Interested in processing payments through the software? Ask the prospective software provider if they're "PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant" and to what level. PCI compliance assesses the level of security the provider is offering as they handle your donors' money and sensitive information. Look for providers with a top tier of compliance, at Level 1: This means they have done everything possible to prevent a breach, and they have plans in place in case something happens.
- First time using mobile bidding? Your first order of business: How easy is it to use this platform? Put yourself in the shoes of audience members seeing mobile bidding for the first time, and those who may not be all that tech savvy. Get a detailed overview of how the software works and how to access the auction (i.e. through an app or browser).
Ask plenty of questions, then weigh the cost of different levels of service versus your needs.
You'll also want to consider cell reception in your venue. The last thing you want is bidders grumbling over slow data speeds and loading screens...or the silent auction not loading altogether. Here's 5 tips to scope out a problem-free venue.
- Ideally, decide on a mobile bidding platform before signing off on a venue. The reason: You'll have the requirements, details and specifications of the provider's service on hand to check out as you're comparing venues.
- Get the venue's IT person - not the sales person - to go with you on a walkthrough. They're the ones who will need to review the required specs and offer the best insight into bandwidth speeds and more.
- Have several people with different cell carriers walk the building to test reception. If everyone is consistently getting bars, the venue option is in great shape.
- Try doing the walkthrough when there's another event taking place. "I've been to venues that were fine on the day we viewed it, but on the night of, there were several big events happening at the same time," Roth-Bush explains. "Everyone was slowing down the wifi bandwidth, putting a huge damper on the party."
- Observe the architecture of the room. Being on a higher up floor, or in a room with lots of columns or other obstructions, increases the likelihood of needing additional bandwidth.
That leads to our next tip...
Having poor reception doesn't necessarily mean your favorite venue is out of the question; you'll simply want to consider bumping up the bandwidth and offering wi-fi hotspots. Check out how mobile bidding presents two unique sponsorship opportunities:
Sponsored Hot Spots
"If reception's not great, I recommend purchasing hot spots and placing temporary towers throughout the ballroom," Roth-Bush advises. "This is a great sponsorship opportunity with one of the phone carriers in the area."
Almost every nonprofit has some kind of phone system, and their carrier may have cell coverage. Try reaching out to your carrier to provide hot spots for the night.
Not only is this a practical way for them to engage the community, the sponsor could put up a booth or table that has an offer for attendees (like a disounted rate if they sign up within one week of the event).
Branded Charging Stations / Pocket Chargers
What happens if donors show up Friday night, after a long day's work...and their batteries are dead?
The easy fix: Set up charging stations!
Check out this creative auction "phone tree", as posted on Greater Giving's Pinterest page for mobile bidding.
"This is another great sponsorship opportunity," Roth-Bush notes. "Try offering event sponsors the chance to set up a branded charging system, or have a basket with branded individual chargers people can pick up and use."
Another thing that's nice to have - for both dead batteries and guests without smartphones - is bid assistants or "bidder buddies." Bidder buddies walk from table to table acting as concierges. They have tablets or use their phones to bid on behalf of donors that need assistance.
"I've seen school auctions where students from the school were assigned to take care of a couple all night long," Roth-Bush explains. "Sometimes an event sponsor will send people to be bid buddies. I've seen this happen and they ended up loving the event, pledging to return next time."
Other times, bidders with dying phones can just run over and get help from a help desk.
For more ideas, we curated a Pinterest board of charging ideas ranging from DIY crafts to branded sponsorship opportunities.
People of all ages can use mobile bidding, and most mobile bidding interfaces are smooth and simple.
Plus, as millenials are growing into your target demographic, they are starting to participate more and more in fundraising auctions. So it's important to get ahead of the curve.
It's still a good idea to let people know ahead of time, whether it's your first time or not (you'll have plenty of first-time guests that may never have bid using their phones).
Try incorporating a step-by-step tutorial on "How Mobile Bidding Works" on the event site, then sharing this with social media.
You may also want to open the auction online a few hours early. This gives people the chance to get comfortable with the platform, minimizing confusion and likely raising final bids.
Mobile bidding makes it easy to bundle donations for silent auction items, or the live auction catalog.
Let's say you were donated a limo, restaurant gift certificates, and 2 tickets to a local play. You can click each of these items in the software and instantly create one package. Simply smooth out the description, give it a name (say, "Date Night on the Town") and include pictures of each element in the package.
Before you know it, you've created packages that are instantly more valuable than the sum of its parts. You can offer this as one package in the silent auction, or put it in the live auction preview catalog to generate excitement.
Check out Roth-Bush's take on the items she's seen sell best in a decade of working with charity auctions....
"Experiential items are still #1. This includes travel packages, chef dinners prepared in home, hunting, golf. A big seller I've seen is getting a local newscaster to take folks up in the helicopter with Traffic Watch, then get a behind-the-scenes tour of the station. Another popular item at schools is to have their child be the Weatherman for the Day. Trips have really been the top seller. They are unique, never tire, and can be tied into other packages.
Oh, and wine or alcohol of any kind. When I look at our numbers, I can see we sell an awful lot of wine."
🔊 This week on Events with Benefits: Mobile Bidding Technology with Debby Roth-Bush
Today's post was just a taste of the information provided by Debby Roth-Bush, Relationship Manager at auction software provider Greater Giving. Roth-Bush is a certified benefit auctioneer and expert on mobile bidding technology.
In the latest episode of our event fundraising podcast Events with Benefits, get a dozen tips on leveraging mobile bidding in your event, including...
- overview of bidding technology
- how to check your venue's reception before signing a contract
- top sellers at charity auctions today
- how to use data after the event for better results next year
- a special offer for $100 off services with Greater Giving...and more!
Hit play below to listen to the 30-minute podcast free (or click here to visit the full site).
If you like what you heard, log onto your iTunes or Podcast app on your smartphone to subscribe and review.